I have a dream
I have got a computer programming certificate at high school in 1974. There were no monitors, operating systems, flash memories and the Internet, at least in a humble city 300 miles away from Moscow. I knew a dozen words in English and decided to become an engineer of electronics. That was the beginning of my dream.
I had some interests in sport, music and arts but mother told me that those things have no relation to real profession. Since my mother studied geography at the same university where my father studied geology I knew a lot about the maps, travelling and American Indians. Somehow or other that mixture produced my interest to computers. Well, because computers can control robots. Robots were really fantastic entities but computers promised some real connection to them.
At Ryazan Radio Engineering University, I learned about integrated circuits and trained for AAD military service. My head was crammed with sophisticated technologies and complex automatic systems. Then the two-year military service as an AAD lieutenant-engineer gave me the sense about the aiming and explosion control systems for military missiles maintenance. The robots were still far from reality but I already had some notion of how far they were in 1981. That year I quit the military service and returned to the city where I was born 300 miles away from Moscow. I became a regular engineer of electronics according to my diploma and occupation.
There was no separation between hardware and software design. The ability to perform and understand hardware design was regarded as a real and substantial professional quality whereas the software design was like something weird. All of the tools were essentially hardware. Blueprints, soldering, measurements, testing and so on all were tangible and visible over the background of poor communications. But the new integrated circuits, new PDP-11 computers, Intel 8080 microprocessors — that was awesome! I programmed micro-controllers that I made myself with assembly language.
Then the “hardware designer” term came into reality and I was proud that I was one of them. My way turned to FPGAs and ASICs in 1993. The new languages for hardware design were VHDL and Verilog. Cool.
In 1998, I and my family immigrated to Canada. I was 41 years old father of two teenage boys barely speaking English. Next year I was hired by Nortel Networks as a System Modelling and Verification Engineer for a huge hardware design project. Everything was nice for two years. Then our “Titanic” crashed against Cisco iceberg and sank. That was the dotcom bubble burst when the most of hardware design engineers had to frantically transform their skills for software design.
It was not easy to transform for newcomers with their families. My wife returned back to Russia to support her parents. I resumed my old goal for the robotics pursuing while our two boys were at high school yet. I studied robotics for one year 2005/2006 at Algonquin College in Ottawa and then I obtained admission to Carleton University for two years studying for master degree. But family issues and the threat of debts made me to return to Russia and to support our elder son’s studying at a Russian university. Our younger son has not returned to Russia. In 2013, I went to Ottawa to visit his new family and to see my grand-daughter.
Thus the skills for hardware and software design that I used equally at the beginning of my career have stretched apart forming a gap between them. On the other hand, the rigid tangible world is getting malleable because of the ubiquitous proliferation of software design. No matter of the area of business you do and of course in my beloved robotics, software goes fist. The demand on hardware design is just dwindling dramatically. That is the main reason why I want to become a software engineer.
I noticed that reason many years ago but the momentum of the resisting obstacles is rather hard. That is why “A new kind of school tackles the software engineering talent shortage” headline caught my attention. That was the article about Holberton School. Since the time of my admission to Carleton University in 2006, I consider another attempt to transform my long experience into competitive skills of software design. This is what I expect from Holberton School. The new Holberton School project sounds like a fresh force before upcoming challenges of our civilization. After Martin Luther King, I have a dream that the smart machines programmed by software
engineers will make the world free.